May 28, 2024

A superb solo goal from Christian Pulisic wasn’t enough for the United States as Germany fought back to win 3-1 in Saturday’s international friendly at a nearly sold-out Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut.

Barcelona midfielder Ilkay Gündogan cancelled out Pulisic’s effort to level the score prior to halftime. Germany then took control in the second half and scored twice in three minutes either side of the hour mark through Niclas Füllkrug and Jamal Musiala to inflict the first defeat of Gregg Berhalter’s second spell as USMNT coach.

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“Of course it hurts,” Pulisic told TNT Sports. “We had a good start to the game. I felt like we hurt them in a lot of moments. But yeah, just little mistakes here and there, defensively we can be a bit better.

“Obviously we have to give them credit, they have some unbelievable players, they played a strong game. But these are games that we want to start finding ways to win.”

Arguably the most significant news came ahead of the game, with Gio Reyna named in the starting lineup for his first appearance since an injury in June’s Nations League final and, more notably, his first game under Berhalter since the 2022 World Cup.

Still making his way back from injury, Reyna played an encouraging 45 minutes before being replaced at halftime. But it marked another step of a process that Berhalter said ahead of the game was “moving forward” after a breakdown in the relationship between the pair that led to a public feud involving both families.

Germany has dealt with its own drama in recent times. The team was playing its first game under new coach Julian Nagelsmann and desperate to get back on track after back-to-back World Cup group-stage exits and a poor start to its buildup to hosting next year’s European Championship.

Jamal Musiala celebrates scoring Germany's third goal in its win over the USMNT.
Jamal Musiala celebrates scoring Germany’s third goal in its win over the USMNT.

Howard Smith/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF

For the U.S., it seemed like a prime opportunity to get a rare victory over the four-time World Cup winners and show it can compete with and beat a global power ahead of the 2026 World Cup on home soil.

That seemed a real possibility when, after an entertaining back-and-forth opening to the game, Pulisic opened the scoring with a spectacular strike in the 27th minute.

Just a minute after missing a far better chance to score, which ended with an ambitious penalty appeal, the 25-year-old attacker took the German defense on singlehandedly, surging inside from the left touchline past several challenges before bending an unstoppable shot into the far top corner of the net.

But the open nature of the game continued, and 12 minutes later Germany was level.

Bayern Munich winger Leroy Sané was the creator, going on his own solo run before a clever one-two with Gündogan. U.S. keeper Matt Turner did well to get a glove on the ball to stop Sané in his tracks, but Gündogan smartly followed up and had a straight-forward finish into the unguarded net.

The scoreline could easily have been higher at halftime. German midfielder Pascal Gross hit the post with a side-footed effort while striker Füllkrug failed to make the most of two presentable opportunities. At the other end, Reyna and Sergiño Dest both forced saves out of Germany stopper Marc-André ter Stegen.

Going into the locker rooms at the interval, Berhalter said in his interview with TNT Sports that the U.S. need to tighten things up and be more compact in the second half. Instead, Germany came out with the greater purpose to take firm control of the game.

Füllkrug put Germany in front in the 58th minute after Dest played him onside from a pass into the box, and the Borussia Dortmund player wrong-footed Turner with his shot.

Yunus Musah had a chance to pull the U.S. back level but headed a Pulisic corner over the crossbar. Moments later, the home side’s deficit was doubled.

Again, the USMNT’s defending was far from ideal, allowing Musiala space on the edge of the box before the Bayern Munich attacker got the benefit of a fortunate deflection and a square pass from Füllkrug to slide in and turn the ball into an empty net.

Berhalter responded with a trio of substitutions, bringing on Brenden Aaronson, Ricardo Pepi and Cameron Carter-Vickers to join Luca de la Torre, who replaced Reyna at half-time.

The U.S. managed to stem the flow of German attacks, but the damage had been done. Berhalter’s side will now look for a better result against Ghana in Nashville, Tennessee, on Tuesday.

“We did some good things, we have to take the positives, obviously learn from some of our mistakes,” Pulisic said. “We have another opportunity against Ghana in a few days and we have to go out and turn it around there.”

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